An accessible, exciting and fast-paced version of cricket is helping to improve the image of “the gentleman’s game” among young people, while reaching the most vulnerable and marginalised children, according to a report by Loughborough University.
‘StreetChance supported by Barclays Spaces for Sports, is helping to “make cricket look cool” as well as instil ‘a sense of civic pride’ in youngsters who take part in the inner-city London cricket scheme. Furthermore, the evaluation by the University’s Institute of Youth Sport (IYS) highlights that ‘the sense of belonging to a team and having a responsibility towards their teammates might help to deter young people from associating with gangs’.
StreetChance is a three-year project being delivered across 15 London boroughs. The initiative, launched in July 2008, uses cricket to engage young people from a range of backgrounds in areas affected by youth crime and anti-social behaviour. It is delivered in school as well as out of school through regular community sessions.
End of year figures announced today show that the initiative reached 6,507 youngsters in total - 41% were girls, 62% were from black and minority ethnic communities and 4% had special educational needs. In total, StreetChance has reached 13,603 young people since it launched in 2008.
In local communities, StreetChance is helping children to cross social, ethnic and religious divides. ‘Young people have learned how to tolerate and respect the differences between themselves and others’ according to the IYS report. One example it highlights is a community session where several Muslim boys were observing Ramadan by fasting. The non-Muslim boys of the group wanted to eat before the coaching session but deliberately avoided doing so in front of their Muslim teammates.
Donovan Miller a StreetChance community coach in Hackney says: “In this area we have the Muslim kids, the Jewish kids, the West Indian kids, the English kids, and what I’ve got is them coming together playing a game. Now if the cricket wasn’t there, who knows what they would be doing but they definitely wouldn’t be together.”
Many of the coaches and teachers commented on the rarity of seeing teenagers from rival estates getting along so seamlessly in StreetChance community sessions. One of the scheme’s apprentice coaches, describes his own experience of seeing the tensions ease between youths from rival estates:
“Through (StreetChance) I made new friends from the estates opposite and so barriers between the two estates were broken because we were all playing cricket together, on the same team. So you go out as a group together, whereas normally I’d see them as an enemy, saying I would not go out with them, I wouldn’t want to know them, but as you’re playing cricket with them you’re actually getting to know that they’re not too bad, you break down the barriers.”
At one particularly problematic estate, the establishment of a cricket team has served to engage children with a more positive appreciation of their local identity. The IYS report explains how ‘young people in those locations can be nervous of mixing with the rest of society because they feel stigmatised by the reputation of the estates in which they live.’
Another of the community coach, Perry Sophocleous, cited in the report, said: “One of the older guys from the estate who gets involved now and then said that if something like this had been around when he was growing up he wouldn’t have got involved in gangs, wouldn’t have turned out the way he did.”
Special ‘Peace at the Crease’ events are also helping to build a foundation for improved relationships between young people and local police officers. By playing cricket against and alongside police officers, young people in vulnerable areas are encouraged to see police officers as people and not just as a uniform, helping them to get to know their local officers on first-name terms; and showing them that the police take care of their neighbourhood rather than patrol it in order to get them into trouble.
As one 15 year-old explains: “It’s better than seeing them on the streets … you get a chance to talk to them.”
Superintendent Adrian Rabot said: "The Metropolitan Police Service have seen the value of the innovative opportunity StreetChance has offered Safer Neighbourhoods Teams to improve the trust and confidence young people have in their local police.
“Not only does this give them the chance to learn exciting new sporting skills, young people also see the value of working as a team and have the opportunity to engage positively with other young people from different neighbourhoods, where they may have only experienced hostility in the past."
StreetChance is a partnership between the Cricket Foundation, Barclays Spaces for Sports, Cricket for Change, the Metropolitan Police Service and Positive Futures; a social inclusion project funded mainly by the Home Office. For more details on StreetChance and to read the full Institute of Youth Sport report visit the: